How very Adam Smith

On education, governments have one core role. It is not to produce East Anglia\’s answer to Cicero, or to finesse the next Bill Gates from a business-oriented NVQ. It\’s not even (desirable as that might be) to stuff the common rooms of Balliol with summa cum laude graduates of inner-city comprehensives.

Its duty is to provide all its citizens with a fine basic education. That is the only test that matters. After 11 years of Labour, it has still not been met.

Quite: as the man said, there\’s a role for the State in that basic education arena. The rest of it could be, as he suggested, left to the market perhaps?

Or if we\’re unwilling to have the State only involved in the primary school area, why not crack open the system to as much of the market as we can stand? Endow the universities (a billion each say, simply issue inflation proofed gilts to them. Makes no difference to the public finances as we\’re already on the hook for the NPV of their future subsidies) and set them free. Vouchers for everyone else.

As we\’re consitently told, other countries do education better than we do. As we\’re a great deal less often told they also do it with less money than we do in the main. It\’s not somuch how much money is spent, but how it\’s spent: more freedom to the consumer does indeed mean better service to said consumer.


6 thoughts on “How very Adam Smith”

  1. The problem is, your premise is nonsense: the UK school system is consistently mid-table for the developed-world, and the UK university system is way above average ( a href=””>see the OECD’s report).

    Just, we’re more cynical, paranoid and bitter than everyone else (and also seldom read local press reports from abroad about how /their/ schools are falling behind, failing, sky falling, etc).

  2. Letters From A Tory

    Agreed. Everyone is talking about stupid top-up fees instead of completely revamping the way that higher education is financed and run.

    Our universities, bar a few, are simply not up to standard and will remain so until they are freed from government control.

  3. That’s great news from john b. It really cheers me up that although our education system is shite, the average for the developed world is also shite.

  4. “It’s not so much how much money is spent, but how it’s spent”, which means above all, by whom it is spent. It’s time to abolish state schools – they’ve many of them become so useless that there’s little to lose by trying the voucher line.

  5. It really cheers me up that although our education system is shite, the average for the developed world is also shite.

    Compared to /what/?

    We know educational standards are equivalent in the UK to other Western countries, and we know they’re higher than they were a generation ago (yes, exams are easier, but more people take them and functional literacy and numeracy rates are up. The difference is that living a wage-earning life now requires some degree of literacy and numeracy, whereas in 1975 it didn’t).

    So the only way you can get ‘shite’ to stick is by using a ridiculous comparison – it’d be like saying that fitness levels were shite because only 10% of the population could run 100m in less than 11 seconds…

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